Starring Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Jill Hennessy, Rip Torn
Directed by Fred Dekker
Distributed by Scream Factory
People die in Hollywood all the time – figuratively and otherwise – but it was on November 5, 1993 that a particularly painful death occurred: that of writer/director Fred Dekker’s career. That fateful day saw the release of Dekker’s RoboCop 3 (1993), a movie that managed not only to kill a franchise but any future prospects for nearly the remainder of Dekker’s budding career. In fact, aside from some work on “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001-2002) the only thing he’s done since is scripting duties on the upcoming The Predator (2018) for his former roommate Shane Black. After delivering two of horror’s hottest cult titles ever, with Night of the Creeps (1986) and The Monster Squad (1987), Dekker should have been cranking out genre pictures and ascending to his place as one of horror’s elite. Why he never didn’t go back to low-budget horror filmmaking after the abysmal failure of RoboCop 3, I’ll never know but, man, of all the “what ifs?” in this industry it pains me to wonder what he might’ve done.
But, then again, he did do RoboCop 3 and he has been quoted as saying that any and all fault people find with the film belongs in his lap, since the studio and everyone else up and down the production line gave him the go-ahead to see it through his way. Although, it is also known the studio wanted a “softer” RoboCop since his primary audience was kids (likely due to 1988’s “RoboCop: The Animated Series) and they felt a PG-13 rating would allow a younger crowd the chance to see him in action. I’m sure the possibility of a greater payday by opening up the potential audience was a consideration, too. Regardless, Dekker’s film is a toothless tale of altruism, with RoboCop spending most of the film helping the homeless, while the over-the-top violence and spitting satire take a far back seat… like, in the trunk.
Detroit is beginning to look more and more like a post-apocalyptic wasteland – in the movie, although that sentence is scarily applicable to 2017 Detroit, too. OCP is struggling to realize its Delta City vision due to the failure of the RoboCop program and subsequent brush with bankruptcy. The company decides to employ Urban Rehabilitators, “Rehabs”, to help speed up the gentrification of the city, forcing residents out of their homes and onto the streets, although OCP claims the Rehabs are there to supplement the waning police force. In order to facilitate their growth, OCP sells out to the Japanese Kanemitsu Corporation, a company who employs a robot enforcer of their own, called “Otomo” (Bruce Locke).
One night, during a stop to check on squatters staying in a rundown church RoboCop (Robert Burke) and Lewis (Nancy Allen) are confronted by the Rehabs who open fire, killing Lewis and damaging RoboCop. The resistance fighters take in RoboCop and give him a place to rest up until Dr. Lazarus (Jill Hennessey), one of RoboCop’s creators, is able to come and perform necessary repairs – including the deletion of Directive 4 which prevents RoboCop from acting against the Rehabs or any employee of OCP. Didn’t he erase those directives in the last movie? Anyway, RoboCop gets spruced up, dons a fancy new set of wings, and flies his metal ass out of the sewers and onto the streets, where a fierce battle between the resistance/police and OCP is underway.
There is so much this film gets wrong that to list every infraction would basically be a rundown of the entire plot, line by line. But here’s where it lost me entirely: the loss of Peter Weller. Sure, Burke kinda looks like Weller if you drink a six-pack and squint your eyes but in terms of speech and mannerisms you just don’t feel like you’re watching the same character. They almost would have been better of either suggesting this is another RoboCop (which probably would’ve been dumb) or keep the helmet on the entire time and have Weller do some ADR work. His commitment to Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991) is the reason given for his absence, and it sounds legit, but his voice really made a world of difference.
Even disregarding the lack of Weller Power, the film is a tragic bore. I don’t want to see RoboCop caught up in a gentrification battle and aiding those less fortunate any more than I wanted to see Rambo fortify an Afghani village and its residents in Rambo III (1988). Yes, I am aware RoboCop’s main directive is to protect the innocent and uphold the public trust, but I want to see him doing it while blasting mf’ers away left and right. Here, he’s a neutered dog with a cone around his neck, laid up for half the running time.
If there is any consolation here, it is found in Basil Poledouris’ return to the composer’s chair. The main themes, a salient absence in RoboCop 2 (1990), make their triumphant return and are virtually the only thing that prevents this movie from looking like a big-budget fan film. If you aren’t much of a film score geek then chances are this won’t matter much but for those of us who feel a stellar score can greatly improve even a poor film this is a much-welcomed return.
A number of returning faces appear here, too, as they did in the previous entry. That sniveling worm Johnson (Felton Perry) is here once more, although The Old Man is no longer OCP CEO; that honor is now bestowed upon Rip Torn, whose character has no name and is credited as “The CEO”. There are a lot of new faces, many of whom went on to greater success (more so than this??), including Stephen Root, Daniel von Bargen, C.C.H. Pounder, Mako, and Bradley Whitford. Even still, these commendable character actors can only do so much to sell this half-baked live-action Saturday morning cartoon. RoboCop deserved a better send-off than this. At the very least – and this is damning with the faintest of praise – it’s better than the uninspired RoboCop (2014) remake.
Unlike RoboCop 2, this film did not receive a new scan and so the 1.85:1 1080p image is the same one found on MGM’s previous Blu-ray. This isn’t such a bad thing, as the last release featured a strong image with great clarity, organic film grain, consistent color saturation, and few instances of dirt & debris. And, you know, given that the film isn’t exactly a celebrated cult classic there wasn’t much reason for Scream Factory to waste money on a new transfer when the existing master was already in great shape.
As with the previous film, RoboCop 3 has an English DTS-HD MA track available in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Dialogue levels are nicely balanced and always clear, gunfire has a good sense of direction but weak impact, activity bursts from different corners of the room when required… but the real standout here is the return of Poledouris, who brings back all of RoboCop’s stirring themes and classic cues. It’s just a shame he didn’t provide them for a better film. Someone needs to do a fan edit of RoboCop 2 with this film’s score. Subtitles are available in English.
There are two audio commentary tracks to be found here – first, with co-writer/director Fred Dekker; second, with the “RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop” team.
“Delta City Shuffle: The Making of RoboCop 3” – Expect to find some revealing interviews with Fred Dekker, Nancy Allen, Bruce Locke, etc. here. While some express disappointment in how the film has been received this isn’t the dump fest I was expecting.
“Robo-Vision: The Effects of RoboCop 3” – Again, Phil Tippett and the major special effects players on the picture sit down to discuss what they achieved on-screen for this sequel.
“The Corporate Ladder – Interview with Actor Felton Perry” – Johnson is up to his old ways, once again.
“Training Otomo – Interview with Actor Bruce Locke and Martial Arts Trainer Bill Ryusaki”.
“War Machine – Interview with RoboCop Gun Fabricator James Belohovek”, discusses the weapons seen in the film.
A theatrical trailer and a still gallery are also included.
- NEW Audio Commentary with director Fred Dekker
- NEW Audio Commentary with the makers of “RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop” documentary – Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths and Eastwood Allen
- NEW Delta City Shuffle: The Making of ROBOCOP 3 featuring director Fred Dekker, actors Nancy Allen, Bruce Locke, producer Patrick Crowley, cinematographer Gary Kibbe and production designer Hilda Stark (38 minutes)
- NEW Robo-Vision: The FX of ROBOCOP 3 featuring Peter Kuran, Phil Tippett, Craig Hayes, Kevin Kutchaver and Paul Gentry (12 minutes)
- NEW The Corporate Ladder – an interview with actor Felton Perry (11 minutes)
- NEW Training Otomo – an interview with actor Bruce Locke and martial arts trainer Bill Ryusaki (8 minutes)
- NEW War Machine – an interview with RoboCop gun fabricator James Belohovek (9 minutes)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery
LIQUID SKY Blu-ray Review – You Don’t Need Acid For This Mind Melting Trip
Starring Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr
Directed by Slava Tsukerman
Distributed by Vinegar Syndrome
Succinctly summing up a slice-of-life avant-garde feature film can be difficult when the picture relies heavily on the audio-visual experience and not necessarily the story. Liquid Sky (1982) is an acid-fueled trip through the emerging New Wave movement, viewed through the vapid lens of the fashion world, where drugs and sex are a commodity to be frequently bartered. The film juxtaposes the grimy and gritty streets of New York City with liberal use of bright, flashy neon, creating an aesthetic that both revels in the post-punk subculture and looks forward to the eye-popping pastels that would come to define the ‘80s. Within this kaleidoscope is a story about androgyny, rampant drug use, pleasures of the flesh, sexual abuse, and tiny invisible aliens that subsist on the endorphins released when people either get high or get down. As director Slava Tsukerman states in the extras, the idea was to craft a unique visual palette, the likes of which cinemagoers maybe hadn’t seen before; in that respect, Tsukerman capably succeeded. This is true subversive cinema, not for the mainstream.
Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is an androgynous NYC fashion model, looking to get her big break into certifiable stardom. Her nightclub fashion shows bring out all the fringe of the city – drug users, sexual deviants, flamboyant personalities, and her rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle), who is a fiend for cocaine. Margaret’s girlfriend, Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard), is a coke dealer whom Jimmy constantly harasses for a quick high, despite the fact he never has any money. Sex is his usual currency, consensual and otherwise. For reasons unknown, though easy to glean, a tiny UFO has landed on top of the apartment building in which Margaret lives, the visitors here to feast on endorphins released by the brain during drug use… or explosive, orgasmic sex.
Jimmy has lunch with his mother, Sylvia (Susan Doukas), a television producer who he sees as little more than a blank check. Sylvia also happens to live across the street from Margaret’s building, making it the perfect vantage point for scientist Johann Hoffman (Otto von Wernherr) to observe the till-now undiscovered, minute aliens and their spacecraft. Margaret, meanwhile, finds herself in one compromising sexual position after the next, often against her will, though these (let’s be honest here and call them) rapes tend to end with her perpetrators dead, a thin crystalline sliver embedded within their skulls; brain removed. Margaret doesn’t quite understand why, but the frequent cause and effect makes her imagine she has unbridled power, able to kill anyone that has sex with her. Eventually, Margaret comes to use this “power” to destroy anyone who crosses or uses her, which as the film will show is a significant number of people. Little does she know, all this time her saviors have been invisible to the naked eye and living atop her building.
The above plot synopsis barely scratches the surface of the weird and insane places this film travels. The biggest takeaway here should be the ground Tsukerman was breaking, which feels very much in the vein of something Andy Warhol might have been behind. The cast is comprised of societal outcasts; populated by homosexuals, ambiguous individuals, gender-fluidity, heroin users, club cronies, kink, vulgarity… all things that in no way conform to societal standards of normality. Carlisle pulls double duty playing two characters – one reprehensible, the other vaguely sympathetic – yet both fall under the rubric of blurred lines; they embody qualities of both masculinity and femininity. Tsukerman embraces the abstract and absurd, delivering a film that is fiercely independent and wholly incapable of direct categorization.
Driving this tour de force is a cutting edge synth score that is constantly active and consistently weird. A trio made up of Tsukerman, Clive Smith, and Brenda I. Hutchinson composed the soundtrack, and it sounds alien and otherworldly while also capturing the essence of the New Wave. The electronic cues and deep bass beats are energetic and repetitive, often making use of bizarre time signatures. Large portions of it reminded me of John Massari’s stellar synth score to Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), as the synthesizer sounds are nearly identical in some passages. The grooves are infectious and wonderfully lo-fi, adding an audible assault to complement the visual feast.
Still, Liquid Sky is something of a challenging watch, especially a first-time viewing when expectations are impossible to calibrate. Because Tsukerman purposely made his film so esoteric and obtuse, it can be tough to settle into a comfortable viewing mindset because so much of the film is uncomfortable and unconventional. The acting quality is passable enough that viewers may find themselves watching the film less as a veritable feature and more a staged, lengthy piece of performance art, which it is in certain respects. Liquid Sky doesn’t lampoon the period or people associated with it, though it does offer an exaggeration of current trends. One thing is for sure, this is bespoke filmmaking at its core and a shining example of the marriage between emerging trends and psychedelic euphoria. Mind blowing stuff.
Vinegar Syndrome is consistently lauded for their A/V work and, boy, did they ever knock this one out of the atmosphere. The 1.85:1 1080p picture is pristine, making it almost impossible to believe this is a low-budget indie from ’82. The original 35mm negative has been given new life via a 4K scan, with the resulting image looking nearly flawless. Aside from literally two or three white flecks the picture is immaculate. Film grain has been smoothed out and minimized without the use of waxy DNR. Fine detail is exquisite, adding a sense of true life to these shiny and squalid environments. Colors are richly saturated and pop off the screen, just as eye-catching neon might do in real life. Color filters are used frequently, bathing the image in hues of blue or green or whatever color fits the intended mood. Skin tones are spot-on and accurate. There is nothing worth complaining about making this one of the finest images Blu-ray is capable of producing.
Although the audio is a single-channel English DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track you’d never know it from the sonic quality. The synthesized score is catchy and constant, causing the film’s soundfield to be brimming with life at every moment. The aggressive mix and high levels cause a mild sensation of discomfort and unease for viewers, ensuring the picture is never viewed too comfortably. Dialogue is understandable and totally clean, with no indication of hissing or pops at any point. Subtitles are available in English.
An introduction is available before the feature begins, with director Slava Tsukerman giving viewers a brief greeting along with praise for Vinegar Syndrome’s new home video edition.
An audio commentary is available, featuring director Slava Tsukerman.
The disc also contains an isolated soundtrack, highlighting that groundbreaking score.
Interview with Slava Tsukerman is a recent chat with the Russian director, who touches upon his career, influences, and the legacy of his most endearing creation.
Interview with Anne Carlisle is a similarly themed chat, with the leading lady discussing topics ranging from her early beginnings to where her career has taken her now.
Liquid Sky Revisited is a nearly-hour long documentary covering all aspects of the film’s production, with Tsukerman delving into every bit of minutia behind the production, genesis, inspirations, etc.
Q&A from 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers Screening, featuring Tsukerman, Carlisle, and co-composer Clive Smith.
A lengthy reel of outtakes, alternate opening sequence, rehearsal footage, multiple trailers, and a still gallery complete the wealth of bonus features found here.
Additionally, the cover artwork is reversible allowing for display of the original key art or newly commissioned artwork.
- BRAND NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM from the 35mm original negative
- Brand new commentary track with: Slava Tsukerman (director)
- Video interview with Slava Tsukerman
- Video interview with Anne Carlisle (actress)
- Director’s introduction
- “Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017) – 50 minute making-of documentary
- Q&A from a 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers screening with: Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle and Clive Smith (music)
- Isolated soundtrack
- Never before seen outtakes
- Alternate opening sequence
- Behind the scenes rehearsal footage
- Multiple theatrical trailers
- Still gallery
- Artwork designed by Derek Gabryszak
- Reversible cover artwork
- English SDH subtitles
Supremely psychedelic and infinitely eccentric, Liquid Sky was 1983’s most successful independent film and for good reason: it is impossible to categorize and there are few films that color outside the lines so vividly and uniquely. You can’t explain it or understand it; you just have to see it. Vinegar Syndrome have raised the bar with their impeccable a/v quality and wonderful selection of extras.
Zena’s Period Blood: Dying for a DEAD END
It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.
How do you turn $900,000 into $77,000,000? Offer directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa the initial amount and give them the freedom to let their minds wander. In 2003, both directors accomplished this unimaginable feat with Dead End. Under the clouds of a small budget, typical poster and insubstantial trailer, most viewers forecasted one long stretch of boredom. However, 15 minutes in and I was as hooked as a pervert in a strip club with his tax refund money. In 83 minutes, the movie unravels and exposes intelligent craftsmanship with story, acting and location, introducing us to the Harrington family and their demise.
After 20 years following the same route, Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) decides to take his family down a shortcut to his in-laws home during Christmas Eve. Wife Laura (Lin Shaye) sings in the passenger seat, serving as the optimistic family unifier who is often ignored by her husband and children. Behind Frank is their oldest child Marion (Alexandra Holden), unnervingly sheltered under the arm of her soon-to-be fiancé, Brad. And forever mom’s favorite boy is Richard (Mick Cain), who rocks out to Marilyn Manson blaring in his headphones. After this brief introduction to the characters and their distinct personalities, we witness everyone fall asleep, including Frank, who refuses to let anyone else drive.
Several seconds pass before the Jeep Wagoneer veers into the opposite lane. Gradually, a honk pleads from an approaching car, startling the Harrington family and forcing Frank to fight with the wheel until he brings the Jeep to a stop. Wide-awake, the family begins to move forward, now entrapped on a new, never-ending road.
I could elaborate on so many scary details in the movie, but the never-ending road stands out the most. What makes it worse is that there are signs for a town called Marcott, with an arrow indicating the town is straight ahead. But the Harringtons never reach the town. This scares me because I believe that every human being has a mental list of things they are scared of or things they should keep an eye out for in certain situations. Unfortunately, this movie exists to expand that list. What sucks for me is that my husband likes taking back roads. Because I strive to have a happy marriage and a peaceful death, I usually fall asleep to avoid an argument and the grim reaper, both of which usually exist on these particular roads. However, I never imagined that a back road could become a never-ending road. Man that would suck!
Speaking of never-ending, the directors became devils of discomfort by never really showing the deceased’s mutilated body, leaving your brain struggling to piece together the unseen image long after the movie ends. Throughout the movie, the family and Brad are picked off one by one. We mainly suffer these devatations through the reactions of the family members that are still alive, sometimes witnessing them lift a severed ear or caress a charred hand. This movie taught me that I can still taste bile at the back of my throat when a mutilation is suggested rather than shown.
Directors Andrea and Canepa accomplished greatness in Dead End with little time and little money. It is a testament that imagination coupled with skill is the true combination to capturing a big budget feel. I hope that all the individuals behind this movie have a long, never-ending road ahead of them because they have delivered brilliance to the world. This is a good horror. Point blank. Period.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 164 – THE CLEANSE
Wait no longer, boils and ghouls! Today is the day you’ve been waiting for; today is the day we sink our teeth into 2018’s The Cleanse! What’s that? You’ve never heard of The Cleanse?! Well, neither had we, but horror releases are slim pickings right now, so we take what we can get. At least we can all agree that we’ve been dying to see Johnny Galecki in something other than Big Bang Theory, right? No? Well, fuck. Here’s an episode about his new movie anyway. What are we even doing?
It was crazy of me to think I could help the police, but I’m going to keep researching, keep writing, there are stories that need to be told, so… here’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 164!
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